By Aaron Recuenco
More than 10,000 soldiers were deployed in areas in Mindanao where the January 21 and February 6 plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) will be held, the military said on Thursday.
Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said they also placed on standby more troops for any eventuality.
“Everything is in place for the security especially in the case of Mindanao, and we have added security measures and intelligence monitoring for threat groups,” said Madrigal.
“We have enough forces to ensure the peaceful conduct of plebiscite,” he added.
The 10,400 soldiers will serve as augmentation for thousands of policemen who will also be deployed in areas that would be covered by the BOL plebiscite.
Earlier, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said it will be deploying a battalion of the elite Special Action Force in Cotabato following the December 31 bombing that left three people dead and more than 30 others injured.
Aside from the plebiscite, authorities are also focusing on the security of the midterm elections in May.
Yesterday, top police, military and election officials met at Camp Crame to discuss security preparations for both the plebiscite and the midterm elections.
Director General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the meeting is aimed at fine-tuning all coordination and security plans and preparations to ensure the peaceful conduct of both the plebiscite this month and the midterm elections middle of this year.
“We held lengthy discussions on the different electoral processes that will take place this month and in May this year, our continuing efforts against loose and undocumented firearms,” said Albayalde.
“Also discussed is the status of the ongoing campaign against Private Armed Groups; and proactive efforts to preempt possible outbreak of violence as a result of intense political rivalry among parties and candidates,” he added.
Madrigal said part of their security effort is to conduct visitations in hot spot areas of the plebiscite and the elections.
“In the next few days, the Chief PNP and I will be going around our units to supervise especially the send-off of our troops for this coming BOL,” he added.
Commission on Elections chairman Sherif Abbas, for his part, said they are hoping for the peaceful conduct of the plebiscite despite the volatile security situation especially in Cotabato City.
“With the help of the AFP and the PNP, we will do everything to make the plebiscite and the midterm elections peaceful and credible,” said Abbas.